Reflections after returning home

I wanted to write just a few thoughts of reflection after my return home. It is easy to let the memory of things and the things which impact you fade very quickly. I can hardly believe it’s been a week since I left KL! It seems like no time at all. Here are a few thoughts

I loved the whole trip. I count it as a real privilege to have had the chance to go and enjoy the beauty of a country like Malaysia, to meet the wonderful people I met and to witness first hand what God is doing in that part of the world. For me, a big part of the trip was to spend some time with Ken (my father-in-law) and to enjoy and learn from his wonderful ministry. I was delighted when he agreed to let me go with him and the trip more than fulfilled my hopes and expectations. There are many things which I have learnt. Here are just a few (in no order of priority):

I saw God’s sovereign hand at work in both small and large ways. When I arrived in KL to meet Ken & Eva at the hotel they told me that, for the first time, their contact who’d normally arrange the meetings for Ken had not arranged anything. We had 3 more days at the conference and then the rest of the visit was a complete unknown! Ken managed to track down an old friend who knew another old friend who happened to live in in KL. This friend was Pastor Alan Tan with whom we eventually stayed and who organised a total of nearly 30 speaking engagements for us in the two weeks that followed. Alan was due to be away on an annual conference that week but had decided not to go (for the first time in years) so he could be in the office for some business. If he hadn’t have been there we wouldn’t have ended up doing what we did. That’s the small way I saw God’s sovereign hand at work. In a much bigger way I saw the ministry amongst migrant workers in Malaysia. Workers from Vietnam, Myanmar, Indonesia and other countries pour in to Malaysia each year to find work. Often these countries are closed to missionaries. But the church in Malaysia was both caring for and witnessing to the migrant workers. As a result 10s of thousands have become Christians over the last few years and are going back home many to plant churches, all over parts of SE Asia which are closed to missionaries! God’s kingdom is growing and growing.

I witnessed a deep commitment to the Christian faith by young and old Christians in Malaysia. Even though it is a muslim country (and there were strong signs that this was the case), and there is some opposition to the gospel (bibles being confiscated by the authorities and only released with the stamp ‘not for muslims’ on it, and a lack of permission to build churches) the church is still flourishing. I saw business men and women meeting early to pray and praise God on a daily basis. I went to prayer meetings where they prayed for the UK and its spiritual life. And there was a deep hunger for the Word of God and a desire to share the gospel with all people.

Another thing was the working and praying together of local churches. The ministry to the migrant workers and the morning prayer meetings for business men and women were both interdenominational. The migrant workers ministry involved some 18 different churches across KL from all denominations and similarly the prayer meetings, and full gospel business men’s meetings, brought men and women together from many different churches to pray and see God at work.

I also saw a few great Christian men and women at work. I saw business men and women who were bold in sharing their faith in the workplace. Pastor Alan was great fun to be with but also to see his ministry was wonderful. How the church(es) he has been leading have flourished and grown over the last decade and to visit a small church in the NE of the country that nearly closed but is now thriving under his (once a week visits) ministry was just great. And I loved Ken’s preaching ministry and his pastoral care for people as we travelled (not to mentions his constant stream of jokes). One of the Indian pastors commented at the end of the conference about Ken’s humility and his great teaching. I wholeheartedly agree and loved every talk I heard. I was both challenged and encouraged by all of this and feel the Lord did some significant work in me during these 2 weeks too!

I could go on, but that will  have to do for the moment. It has spurred me on to seek God’s work in my life and in the community in which I live. I realise just how fortunate I have been to take this trip and I want to make the most of what I have learned and to grow as a result of it. I am also very thankful to St Chads for letting me go for two weeks and particularly to my wonderful Jo and Hannah & Charlotte.

Wed 23rd – Day 15

OK – just time for one final post before I go to a meeting this evening and on from there to the airport. This morning Ken and I had a morning teaching the Migrant Pastors in this area (those responsible for running the churches to the migrant workers from Nepal, Myanmar, Indonesia, Vietnam & Thailand). It was a great time together. These young ministers are so enthusiastic and passionate about their work for the gospel. It was a joy to spend the morning with them.

From there we went straight to a full gospel business men’s (and women’s) lunch in a nearby industrial estate. We met in a business that manufactured and serviced industrial pumping units. The CEO was a strong Christian and had 8-9 Christians on his staff team. About a dozen others joined us and Ken spoke, a great message from 2 Chronicles and Isaiah. It was really encouraging to meet the business men and women and to worship with them and hear about their perceptions of what is happening in the church in Malaysia.

We came back in the mid-afternoon and I have been preparing both to leave for the airport (later tonight) and to preach at a midweek evening meeting at the Harvest Church. After the meeting I will be driven to the airport for a flight back home leaving at 2am local time (oh joy!)… I am really looking forward to seeing Jo and the girls again, and Sam 😀 – it’s been a great trip and a great blessing.

we also saw this little guy on the way home

Tue 22nd – Day 14

Today is my penultimate day in Malaysia! I can hardly believe it. The time has flown by so quickly, however I am looking forward to seeing Jo and the girls again.

I spent most of the morning doing some work towards tomorrow’s teaching. Ken & I will be teaching a pastors’ conference in the morning and I will be speaking at a midweek meeting in the evening before going straight to the airport.

At lunch time we went to the office of the church and had lunch with Alan and Lai Forng and spending some more time in the office.

Late afternoon I travelled down to Petaling Jaya to visit Daniel & Selvi Ebinesan (who are very long time friends of Jim and Avril Lethbridge). I spent a lovely time with them (pictures below) and their son and daughter-in-law Danny & Patricia (?).

They were telling about the ‘methodist’ church they are a part of that was started 30 years ago with 60 people and is now nearly 5000 strong. Quite something.

It’s been another great day – and probably my final blog post in Malaysia. I will probably write a couple more thoughts on reflection after I get back. But, thank you for all your comments and encouraging words.

Mon 21st – Day 13

Monday has been a day off. After a slow start Pastor Alan and his wife Lai Forng came and took us to visit a unique village on one of the islands about an hour’s boat ride away from Klang. It’s called Crab Island and the entire village is built on stilts. Until recently there was no electricity or mains water/sanitation and the village, which is home for about 2000 people was fairly self sufficient.

We had a wonderful meal of, not surprisingly, crab and fish and pottered around the village for an hour or so. The journey back was at the lowest tide they’ve had for months so disembarkation at the Klang harbour was quite an experience – I can’t imagine health and safety allowing this at home! The video below is of Ken disembarking from the ferry – as he did so Pastor Alan helped him onto the dock and one of the boat men shouted in Chinese ‘The old man he is strong!’


Sun 20th – Day 12

I am writing this on Monday afternoon, as there was no time to blog yesterday at all! Starting on Saturday night I had a full timetable of services where I was preaching. There are some photos of some of the services but not all.

Saturday night at 8pm I was invited to the Chinese speaking church at Harvest Assemblies and this was the first time I’ve preached with a translator – it was great fun and I had a wonderful time trying to sing the Chinese choruses and hymns. They were a lovely church, ministering to people in their community who only spoke Chinese.

At 8am on Sunday morning I was at St Barnabas’ Anglican church in downtown Klang with the Rev Viji at their English Speaking service. It was a wonderful service – perhaps 200 people in the congregation of all ages and backgrounds. Quite a traditional Anglican communion service in many ways but then a worship band came up half way through to lead us in 20 mins of unbroken, lively modern worship.

Straight after the end of the service I was met by an Indian pastor who took me 20 miles out into the country to speak at a Pentecostal Tamil speaking church. Perhaps 150 people crammed into a converted shop on a parade of shops (see below), with a very lively rock band to lead us in worship. I was asked to preach for about 45 mins and then give an altar call. When I invited

people to come forward for prayer about 50 came to the front. I prayed for them collectively and was then told by the pastor to go and pray for them all individually! So, for the next 25 mins or so whilst the band played I prayed and laid hands on each person in turn. It was a very moving time – the only difficulty was their air conditioning had broken down, and I had to dress smartly in long trousers and long sleeved shirt (the temperature was about 35 oC) – so I was sweating buckets.

Immediately at the end of the service I was met by another driver who took me to an outreach clinic. This is something quite amazing. 18 churches have joined together and collectively pooled their medical and dental experts to run a free clinic for migrant workers. There are about 40, 000 migrant workers in Klang (it’s the major port town in KL) and they have no medical provision, no rights, no money and no citizenship. So, the churches run a daily medical clinic, which is totally free for the migrant families. The Christian faith is not pushed on them – the treatment is free and unconditional. It is clear though that the church is running it and they also run services on the Sunday in the many languages of the people (Vietnamese, Myanmar, Indonesian, Cambodian etc) to which they are invited.

So, after the clinic at about 4.30 I was taken to a Methodist church in Klang where I spoke to a Vietnamese speaking congregation for about an hour. About 20 or so were there and it was a wonderful time together.

That service finished at 6ish and we went for some food with a crowd from the clinic and the church before going to another church at 9.30pm with a  much larger ministry to the Vietnamese immigrants. There were about 200 people there and Ken and I both gave a brief gospel message and then the Vietnamese pastor invited any who wanted to commit their lives to Christ to come forward. 6 young men committed their lives that night and many thousands have over the last 6 years they’ve been running this ministry. Many of these workers stay in Malaysia for just a year or so before returning home, and many hundreds of those who become Christians at these services go back to their home countries to plant churches. The gospel is spreading throughout south Asia through the work of these ministries in Malaysia and it was a privilege to catch a glimpse of it and be a part of it for just one day!

We finally got home at about 11.30pm. For me it had been 27 hours of virtually unbroken ministry and preaching (except for a brief sleep on Saturday night). It was wonderful, exhausting and a joy to be a part of!

Saturday 19th – Day 11

Firstly, a big thank you to everyone for all your comments. It’s been really encouraging to read your thoughts and impressions – and yes I will be going on a diet when I get back :D. This trip has been a privilege and a joy to meet God’s people around the world and to hear the wonderful stories of what He is doing and how his church is growing and spreading.

This morning we had breakfast with an Anglican Vicar from the church I will speak at tomorrow morning. He is a great guy, really loves the Lord, and great fun to spend some time with. He and Alan had a laugh feeding me with hot, spicy squid for breakfast amongst other things!

I now find out that the schedule has got even busier! The next 24hrs or so are going to be a bit of a marathon. Ken keeps arranging for us to speak at different church services and meeting lots of different people. I think he wants me to get a real flavour of what his life on the road is like… and I love it! So this is what the next 24hrs are looking like for me (so far):

  • 8pm tonight – evening service – to preach to a Chinese speaking church
  • 8am tomorrow – morning service – to preach to an English speaking anglican church
  • 10.30am tomorrow – morning service – to preach to an Indian speaking church
  • Lunch – to a mission to meet some pastors; doctors, dentists and other medical staff
  • 4pm – tomorrow – afternoon service – to preach to a Vietnamese speaking church
  • 9pm – tomorrow – night service – to preach to another Vietnamese speaking church

I am loving it! Feel totally out of my depth and am happy there because I won’t rely on my own strength as much! Your prayers would be very much appreciated! Off for a little sleep now.

Fri 18th – Day 10

Today I flew up to the North of Malaysia to a town called Kota Bharu. Pastor Alan was asked to take over a church there which was in trouble – down to 20 members and a lot of unhappiness in the small congregation. That was 6 years ago. There are now well over 120 members and many young students. It was a very good church service (it meets on Friday because it is a muslim state and Friday and Saturday are the weekend) and a pleasure to meet the people there. I had the privilege of preaching and sharing in the ministry with this rapidly growing church.

We stayed there most of the day and flew back late afternoon. Ken stayed in KL and was teaching at a Full Gospel Business Men’s meeting at lunch time,

Then this evening I was teaching at Alan’s brother Gary’s house meeting, and Ken at another house meeting. The evening was rounded off with some wonderful food and the most delicious freshly picked Mango I have ever had. It’s been a long but good day. Now I must sleep. I am not sure if I will be able to blog much over the next few days because I am moving to stay at another person’s house and it’s unclear if we will have internet access there… will blog when I can.

Thur 17th – Day 9

Not going to blog much tonight as I have to be up at 5 tomorrow morning to fly up to the North East. It’s been a lovely day again today. An early start at 6am with another sunrise prayer meeting with 17 men this morning and this time I spoke. Good fellowship and a good time together.

The rest of the day was spent in preparation for the next few busy few days. Speaking twice tomorrow, and 4 times over the weekend.

Had a little time to go to a very western style Mall (see below) – and there was even more lovely food. A gorgeous Indian meal at lunch time (see photo of the coffee that came afterwards) and the most wonderful Japanese meal this evening – both with wonderful company.

Wed 16th Day 8

A slower start today. We went to visit the new church building of Pastor Alan’s church. They needed a larger space for their growing congregation which started just under 15 years ago and has outgrown their current premises. The new building used to be a supermarket, then was bought by a health club which put a couple of swimming pools in and now has been bought by the church and will be ready by June for them to move in to the lower level. The auditorium can seat approx. 1200 people and it has 4 floors which they will renovate stage by stage as the money comes in.

The plan is to use the swimming pool for baptisms (after it’s been cleaned up)!

On the way to the church we drove past a newly built mosque  in Shah Alam which accommodates about 4000 worshippers.

Lunch was another experience –

we went to a soup restaurant which served only pork dishes. Dishes based on virtually every part of the pig – including a dish of pig tendons (which were actually very nice).

As ever the food and the fellowship around the table were lovely.

We had a quieter afternoon to catch up on some preparation for the week ahead and Pastor Alan asked me if I would like to go with him to visit a church he also pastors in Kota Bahru – right up in the North East of the country, very close to the border of Thailand – on Friday this week. I said I would very much like to, and we booked my flight to accompany him there and then. He then told me I would be preaching for them at their weekly service! We have an early start for that, leaving home at 5am in order to get to the airport for the flight at 7am.

Then, this evening we were treated to a wonderful exposition from Hebrews 8 on the new covenant by Ken at a midweek bible reading at Pastor Alan’s church. Challenging thoughts from it; too many to list; here’s one: I will put my laws in their hearts and write them on their minds. ‘lightbulbs can’t shine no matter how hard they try, unless they’re connected to the power supply. God is the power supply – the only way we will shine is if we are connected to him.’

Tuesday 15th – Day 7

Today has been a busier day in terms of ministry and teaching. Ken and I went to a business prayer breakfast this morning at 6.40. These are early morning prayer meetings organised by local business men who meet in one of their offices every morning of the working week, to have an hour of praise, bible study and prayer. This morning we met about a dozen business men and women in an office. We sang for about 20 minutes and then Ken talked from John 13 for half an hour. We then went and had breakfast with them in a nearby cafe – spicy noodle breakfast!

From that came a few more invitations to speak at different meetings in the week. It’s now looking pretty busy for both of us for the next few days. We also met a Vietnamese lady who’s invited us to go and speak at a Church on Sunday evening that meets at 9pm and is specifically aimed at the immigrant Vietnamese workers who come to Malaysia each year. It is a very important area of ministry. She told us that this particular church service has been going for 8 years and in that time they have baptised 18, 000 new Vietnamese Christians – 2-300 at a time down at the beach!

After breakfast I went to a Church Staff meeting with Pastor Alan, we sang and praised again for 15mins, there was a time of prayer and then he asked me to speak for 20 mins or so (which was a bit of surprise 🙂 ). Then we were both whisked off to lunch with Brother Thomas – who was quite a character – a convert from Taoism at the age of 58 and who loved to carry a Shofar (follow the link or google it if you don’t know what one is) with him to prayer meetings and blow it during the worship. (Ken thought it was a fire alarm the first time he used it this morning!) Lunch was also an experience – Banana leaf curry (see below).

You are given a banana leaf (rather than a bowl) as you enter, and then waiters come with a variety of different dishes and you have a dollop or two of whatever curry you fancy. The object hiding behind the cuttlery holder is a coconut in its husk. They chop the top off the husk, slice the top off the coconut and put a straw in it for you to drink the fresh coconut milk and a spoon to eat the coconut flesh. It was all delicious.

After a rapid lunch we went on to another prayer meeting. This time a prayer meeting for the countries of the world (see below).

Again, Ken spoke for about half an hour (this time from Colossians 1) and then we prayed together for another half an hour, particularly for Japan but also for the UK, Malaysia, Sudan, Thailand, Pakistan and other countries around the world, before finishing and having more food and a cup of coffee.

We got back to Pastor Alan’s house mid afternoon and have enjoyed a lovely evening with the family. It now looks as though I will be speaking at 3 different church services this weekend (one to an Anglican – St Barnabas – English speaking church, also a Tamil speaking church and a Chinese speaking church), and Ken at another 3 different churches and then we will both speak at the Vietnamese church on Sunday night! Tomorrow will be a day for some preparation I think!